Sharing and cultivating tacit knowledge in an e-learning environment: A naturalistic study.

Tee, Meng Yew, Ph.D., The University of Kansas, 2005.


Advancing computing and network technologies have elevated the potential of increasing access to quality higher education, particularly for individuals in developing countries. A review of literature revealed that few studies have addressed issues or questions related to the capacity of e-learning environments to create conditions conducive for learners to share or cultivate tacit knowledge, a critical form of knowledge that is difficult to make explicit. In this regard, the purpose of this study was to attempt to develop a greater understanding of the conditions and processes that help promote the sharing or cultivation of tacit knowledge in online learning environments. Using naturalistic inquiry as the methodology of this study, an online graduate business course offered at a private, non-profit United States-based university was purposively selected as the research site. The study found that the online course encouraged processes and created conditions consistent with Nonaka's model of knowledge creation and the concept of ba (or shared context). The ba -like learning environment required students to share, construct and utilize knowledge through socialization, externalization, combination and internalization, and as a result, the study found, the students gained deep insights and understandings laden with tacit knowledge.